Infiniti’s (NSANY.PK) lead design chief Johan de Nysschen, a former executive at Audi, will reportedly be leaving the Japanese luxury marque in pursuit of greener pastures, Automotive News is reporting. He’s been the head of design at Nissan’s luxury arm for two years, and submitted his resignation earlier this week to the company that brought him from the German automaker to help turn around the struggling Infiniti.
De Nysschen cited personal reasons for leaving the company, but he has reportedly been in negotiations with General Motors (NYSE:GM), sources told Automotive News, and he may take up residence at Cadillac. Nissan Motor Corp. Executive Vice President Andy Palmer told the site on Friday that de Nysschen has found other employment, and that was confirmed by Phil LeBeau. General Motors had so far declined to comment on the matter at the time of this writing.
Cadillac, which despite mounting a rather successful turnaround in many ways, has been hemorrhaging executives in the process. The brand’s U.S. chief Bill Peffer left last month after less than a year in the postition, one that has seen unusually high rates of turnover of late. Peffer was the third Cadillac sales chief to leave in two years, and the latest in a string of departures brought about by the ignition switch debacle.
Palmer said de Nysschen “cited … a strong desire to go back to the United States for personal reasons,” and added that his home and family are still in the United States. Infiniti doesn’t have a candidate readily available to replace de Nysschen, but the company is looking at both internal and external possibilities, it said.
With it’s new Q50 sedan, and a refreshed Q70, Infiniti is just starting to find its footing. This makes de Nysschen’s departure all the more stinging, as new product launches, a new dedicated staff, and plans for a new factory in Mexico continue to unfold, Auto News said. The brand sold a record 101,220 new vehicles globally in the first six months of 2014, the site said, up 30 percent from a year earlier. Infiniti also broke its monthly sales records for April, May, and June, as volume grew in 31 markets around the world, including especially crucial markets such as the U.S., China, Canada, and the Middle East, Auto News said.
“Johan’s contribution has been enormous,” Palmer told the site. “The trajectory for the first six months was absolutely stunning. We’re intending to keep that continuity of growth.”
At Cadillac, de Nysschen will be responsible for navigating the brand out of the all-encompassing recall scandal, figuring out what to do about the ELR plug-in hybrid coupe (which, about 7 months into its life, already has five-figure discounts being placed on it), and continuing the brand’s evolution. But this is where de Nysschen is right at home — at a struggling luxury brand that needs a good kick in the pants.
“When de Nysschen left as Audi’s U.S. chief for Infiniti, he wrote to colleagues that he thrived on ‘turnaround strategies’ and ‘building companies,’ adding ‘I too, need to secure my future,’” Automotive News quoted him as saying. That only became evident at Infiniti, which is now doing better than ever. During his stint at Audi, the brand’s share of the U.S. luxury market climbed to 9.5 percent in 2011 from 5.3 percent in 2004.